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Gastritis is an inflammation of the stomach lining. Many people with gastritis do not have any symptoms. However, if left untreated, 10-15% will develop more severe complications of gastritis requiring medical attention. Let’s get to know more about gastritis.
Your stomach has a protective lining of mucus on the mucosa. It protects your stomach from the strong stomach acid that is needed to digest food. When the protective lining gets damaged or weakened, the mucosa becomes inflamed, i.e. gastritis.
Gastritis can be either acute with severe and sudden attacks that only last for a couple of days, or it can be chronic with long-term discomfort.
Gastritis and gastroenteritis sound vaguely similar but they are quite different.
Many people with gastritis do not have symptoms. The most common symptoms of gastritis include:
Gastritis occurs when the stomach lining (mucosa) gets damaged. Many things can cause gastritis, including:
Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) is the most common and important chronic digestive system infection in the world. In Hong Kong, approximately a third of the population is infected with this organism. It can lead to, not only gastritis but also a spectrum of other diseases including indigestion, stomach ulcer, and rarely, gastric cancer and stomach lymphoma.
H. pylori is readily treatable, although the increasing antibiotic resistance makes management even more challenging. Therefore, it is crucial not to ignore signs and symptoms flag-up by our body to allow early detection and optimize treatment regimes to improve disease outcomes.
Your doctor will ask more about your symptoms and perform a physical examination. Your doctors may also order one or more of the following non-invasive or invasive tests to aid diagnosis:
Treatment for gastritis varies depending on the underlying cause. Your doctor will assess the condition and suggest the most appropriate and effective treatment including:
A combination of one proton pump inhibitor (PPI) and two or more antibiotics is the backbone of H. pylori bacteria eradication.
The treatment course lasts 14 days. This treatment carries a success rate of around 80%, depending on the antibiotic-resistant rate in your locality. In some cases, it may be necessary to repeat the treatment. Doctors will usually recommend a repeat test in around four to six weeks in all patients.
If left untreated, gastritis can increase your risk of developing some serious problems, such as:
Gastritis itself isn’t contagious, but the bacteria - H. pylori - can be contagious through the fecal-to-oral route. Therefore good hand hygiene especially before handling foods and proper sanitation can lower your risk of infection and transmission.
You can also take steps to prevent gastritis including:
You might not experience any symptoms with gastritis, but you might feel a burning sensation or pain in the upper belly, feeling of indigestion, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, weight loss, black and tarry stool, or vomiting blood.
In an acute attack, gastritis may last from days up to weeks. In chronic gastritis, it can develop gradually and last over a few months or years intermittently.
The most important thing you should avoid with gastritis is alcohol. You should also avoid smoking and eating foods that can trigger irritation in your stomach including spicy food.
Doctors will prescribe medications to help you ease the symptoms or the underlying bacterial cause of gastritis. These include antacids, histamine (H2) blockers, or proton pump inhibitors (PPI) to reduce stomach acidity. As well as antibiotics that can be used in combination with PPI to kill H. pylori bacteria.
This article was independently written by Healthy Matters and is not sponsored. It is informative only and not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be relied upon for specific medical advice.
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